When I first started my research of the internment of German-Americans in the United States during World War II, I interviewed several former internees independently of one another who were adults during their time of internment, unlike myself who was only twelve back then. During one or more of these interviews the subject of the German-American and German-Latin American internees who were Jewish were mentioned by the interviewee.
One former internee described to me that a group of Panamanians who were German-Jews were interned in Camp Forrest, Tennessee, with him. During this interview he described even though the German-Jews from Panama were placed in a separate compound, the only separation was a barbed wire fence. He recalled how he and other internees visited with the group from Panama by chatting through the fence. In addition, during the evening hours many of the German internees from the United States would slip through the fencing and visit with the Panamanian group in their "huts."
As I began to review various lists of internees I would note on occasion that next to a name of the internee it would be stipulated "German-Jew." [Content amended on May 21, 1998] (See Note 1 below). Prior to this time I had been communicating with Professor Krammer for several years. During the course of our conversations I noted to Krammer that it appeared as though the United States Department of State was anxious to have exchanges take place with the Hitler's Third Reich, but that the government of Germany was dragging its feet or seemed reluctant to conduct exchanges of civilian internees. Krammer's findings in the former Third Reich Archives in Bonn, Germany confirmed my suspicions that the Third Reich was "foot-dragging" the civilian exchange program. In addition, Krammer found thousands of documents concerning civilian internees from the United States, about each exchange voyage, to include the names of every German citizen who was taken from Latin America to Seagoville, Texas, including groups of German-Jews. Two excerpts of these lists may be viewed by a click Honduras and then using your "Back" button on your browser then clicking Panama. The DATELINE NBC program described in the next paragraph provides additional information on this topic.
On November 30, 1994 and on September 4, 1998, DATELINE NBC aired a program entitled Roundup. In this Dateline program it is noted that German-Jews were aboard an exchange vessel and among a group of civilian internees who were to be exchanged with the Third Reich.
More research of this episode of internment, deportation, and exchange remains to be done.
Before Dateline's Roundup program aired, I came across the following passages:
"Passing the heavily guarded compound containing German and Japanese prisoners of war (POWs), Rabbi Israel Gerstein of Chattanooga, Tennessee, arrived at the 'room where the Jews were kept. It was a moving experience--it was a Tisha B'Av mood.' This was not North Africa of liberated Europe--it was Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia [USA], in 1942." Strum, Harvey, "Jewish Internees in the American South, 1942-1945," American Jewish Archives, Spring 1990, No. 1, p.27Note 1: The statement, "Then in 1993 I received a letter from Arnold Krammer, Professor of History at Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) confirming the exchange of German-Jews from the United States with the Third Reich." has been removed from this document because the lists in the author's possession do not confirm the exchange of German-Jews. Both documents were extracted from a list other than an exchange list, in other words because the lists containing the names of German-Jews were identical in every way to the "exchange list," it was initially thought to be a part of the "exchange list."
Updated: November 18, 1998